How to make a “custody” battle less painful for everyone, especially the kids
No matter how bad a marriage or partnership breakdown is, it can be ten times worse if there are children involved. Every situation will be different and depend on the unique circumstances of the family unit. But whatever happens, it is imperative that the children are protected from any animosity between the parents. Put simply, no matter how acrimonious the break up, making the process as stress free as possible for the children should be everyone’s concern.
It will certainly be the family court’s number one priority above everything else if parents want to fight about “custody”. Strictly speaking the court does not encourage the use of the term custody; it prefers “child arrangements”. In consequence it’s in everyone’s interest to keep any custody or child arrangement dispute as calm and as smooth as possible. How can you do that and get the best outcome for your children? Here is our five-point guide.
#1 – keep the lines of communication open
Rule number one in any negotiation is to keep the lines of communication open. The worst thing that can happen for everyone involved is for talks to break down. Not only does it increase the tension between the parties (which the children will immediately pick up on), but it also has a knock-on effect for any arrangements. The best solution for everyone is to resolve any issues as quickly as possible, so that the children can regain a degree of stability in their lives. And that means everyone must keep talking.
#2 – Protect your children from any animosity, but be honest with them
It really doesn’t matter if you and your soon-to-be ex-partner hate the sight of one another. Your children are both your responsibilities, so it’s up to you to protect them from any animosity between you. However, don’t try and pretend that change isn’t happening. Children are far more astute than they are often given credit for and will know that mum and dad are having problems. Don’t lie to them, and certainly don’t try and turn your children against your former partner. In some countries this is actually an offence, and in the UK family courts will not take kindly to reports of manipulating the feelings of children, regardless of how messy the separation is.
#3 – Get mediators on the case
If you can’t talk to one another without it ending in a shouting match, then ask mediators to step in. Family law experts will endeavour to negotiate a solution and have experience in dealing with child arrangement disputes in court if it becomes necessary. Don’t be afraid to ask your legal experts to help you organise some mediation before the child arrangement dispute reaches fever pitch so the only solution left is going to court.
#4 – Always keep your children’s welfare at the centre of any decision
It’s easy to start thinking only of your own situation in a complicated divorce or separation, but it’s important to remember that there are other people affected by the events too. It’s time to put your own personal feelings aside and keep your children’s welfare at the centre of every decision.
#5 – Think about the future
Child arrangements need some flexibility so that the children spend as much time as possible with both parents. That means you have to be relatively flexible too, not just immediately, but in the future as well. Things like schools, health provision, and even access to other family members such as grandparents are all part of the solution, so make sure you think about the long-term plans for your children as well as any immediate considerations.
Court disputes involving child arrangements can be emotionally draining and challenging, so make sure you have a legal expert you can rely on, and whom you feel comfortable with to help you through the process.
If you would like any further help or information on the article then please contact a member of our family team.